As a teacher, the response to the idea that Harvard has many students worthy of academic honors has puzzled me. I find myself asking why would the fact that Harvard's students are successful students be so hard for anyone to accept? It is widely known that Harvard is the most competitive entry school in the nation. It is privileged to have our nation's most sought after students and a highly respected faculty. Indeed, Harvard accepts only a small percentage of those who apply to it for admission. Faculty appointments are equally competitive and highly coveted. Why could the excellence of Harvard's students not be reasonably attributed to the remarkable talent of its students and to the excellence of its faculty?
The answer is because conventional thinking deems such a thing impossible or inappropriate -- even at Harvard. Our belief in regard to education is that some students may be successful but others will likely not be -- or should not be. It is a belief so firmly held that the claim of a school that it has taught its students so well as to have 90% of them successfully worthy of honors is laughable to us.
This belief that no school can have or should have such a high rate of success prevails even while we are exhorted to "leave no child behind". The rallying cry of the current administration in regard to our schools -- and the name of the legislation that serves the idea, I assume "leave no child behind" to mean that teachers are to work to help all students to be successful in school. Yet at the same time we teachers are exhorted to the goal of having all students be successful, we doubt Harvard when it claims to have almost done so.
As a teacher, I am a servant of society and thus need its direction as I work to teach my students. How can I make sense of this apparent contradiction - to "let no child behind" but yet at the same time to be ever careful not to have too many students achieve success? How should this impact on my teaching and my interaction with my students? And how is it that two such contradictory expectations of education can live side by side in our society?
As I work out my answer to those questions, I look to my society for its answers to even harder questions. What is it America really wants from its schools? Do we truly want excellence in instruction for all students? Do we really want all students to be successful - to be "not left behind" or is it necessary that some must always lag behind so that the success of others may be validated? The furor over Harvard's honor roll would sadly suggest that might be the case.
The answers to those questions may provide food for thought and be long in coming. But with another marking period always near at hand, I need my country's help as a teacher now. As I again assess my students' learning and award them grades I need to know -- what is the magic ratio of success to failure that will be acceptable so that none will cast aspersions on my school or on my students? How many of my students may I safely laud?
A Candle of Inspiration...
Something Nice a Student Did Yesterday...
by Sunday Moon
From the Teachers.Net Chatboard
Last night there was a basketball benefit for a teachers assistant and her family due to an accident that left the husband unable to work. They are in danger of losing their house and have several kids in school. Well, a little third grade girl across the hall from me went up to her teacher at the end of the day and said, "Mrs. S., I can't go tonight but I wanted to give this to them." She handed her teacher a handful of change that the little girl must have gotten from her piggy bank. The teacher said she teared up and after hearing the story I did too. This is just a reminder about how thoughtful and sweet our kids really are. That made my day yesterday.
They Make Me Smile
I had a very interesting day today. First, our speech and language teacher was having a good giggle over what a little girl said about me. She was testing this child for a language processing problem. I had referred this little girl after working with her in Reading Recovery for 20 weeks but not being able to help her get up to grade level. The teacher asked the girl if she still went to me for lessons. The little girl was trying to find the right words to answer but after a few attempts just said, "She fired me." - meaning that I fired her. Actually I'm not permitted to work with a child for more than 20 weeks. I told this child that I wouldn't be able to work with her any more because I had to work with some other children now.
Then while walking a child down to my room for her lesson today, she said, "Your hair is getting very white." (I had my hair pulled back and all those grays where exposed) She went on to say, "Please color your hair so you don't look like an old lady." I said, "I don't mind looking like an old lady because that is what I am." She said, "Oh no you aren't!"
One of my other RR kids was walking up to the nurse's room during his lunch period. I happened to meet him in the hall and asked him if he was sick. He said, "I throwed up." After spending a little time in the office, he felt better and went with his class. When I picked him up for his lesson later, I asked him if he was feeling better. He said that he was. I then asked him if he threw up often. He said, "No, not that much, only at lunch." I couldn't help laughing, it was so funny! He was so serious. This is the same child who during the initial testing was reading a story about a boy who could do many tricks. One of the tricks was "hanging from a bar." After reading this the little boy commented, "That's where my pap-pap goes to drink."
Later while supervising the loading of buses, I overheard one 5th or 6th grade child telling another that he was hyper-reactive. It sounded so funny. At times I think that maybe I'm hyper-reactive.
Maybe you had to be there, but I found myself with a big smile most of the day. I was even observed today by our principal. I didn't know he was coming. This doesn't bother me, I like not knowing when he's coming, I don't have to stew about it beforehand. I was prepared for my lessons and things went well, so it was no big deal.